Islam is being associated with the evil we witness around us. People in areas controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are pushed to flee and seek refuge from this evil that has befallen them. Islam has been hijacked by an evil group that speaks in the name of Muslims and dictates its religious interpretations on them.
However, religions came for the good of everyone, and for the sake of expelling evil from people’s lives. Islam came as a mercy to people, and it was the persecuted - slaves, the poor and the vulnerable - who first converted to it after it became well-known for its justice.
Islam has been politicized during the last three decades. The big transformation began with the Islamic revolution in Iran. It expanded after the concept of jihad was introduced in Afghanistan. It expanded further due to the use of religion as a political tool. At this point, extremists emerged and the status of moderates, who were the religious leaders of society, declined.
To save Muslims and the world, the solution is moderate Islam - that is a bigger and more important project than fighting ISIS and the cancer of extremism
Even today’s Salafism, which is characterized as a source of extremism and a cause of our current crisis, has nothing to do with the traditional Salafism that in the past dealt with worship and behavior.
As a result of the struggle in the Islamic arena, hardliners dominated over the moderates, then extremists dominated over the hardliners. We are now in the phase of ultra extremists. ISIS represents pure evil, which previously appeared at the beginning of Islamic history 14 centuries ago, and Muslims successfully fought it.
However, Muslims today will not win unless they fight extremists’ concept of Islam, which is pushing them to clash with the world and become enemies with Islam's different sects. The crisis will be prolonged if Muslim leaders do not adopt moderate Islam, which reformulates the life of people and society, and restores the balance that religion created to fight evil. To save Muslims and the world, the solution is moderate Islam - that is a bigger and more important project than fighting ISIS and the cancer of extremism.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Sept. 28, 2015.